I have conceived of a ridiculous plan, no, make that an adventure to read/re-read everything on my fiction bookshelves. To make it a tiny bit less ridiculous, I’ve not set myself any particular time-frame for this project, but I am starting now, in June. Then it’ll take as long as it takes.
Why is a valid question. I purged my fiction collection when I moved in 2015 for space considerations more than any other reason. It was quite good fun, my sisters and the kids helped and we made a great game of it. Watching my nephews lug boxes of books out the front and waylay passers-by to see if they fancied a book or two was a highlight. I still ended up with double stacked bookcases. By this Spring, they were starting to get unruly so I had another sweep. The shelves are now lovely and tidy and I can see what I’ve got. And it’s this that’s prompted my plan. Most of what I’ve kept are books I’ve already read and consider my favourites. Some get re-read often, such as The Talented Mr Ripley. Others I read once 5,10, 20 years ago but remember fondly enough to want to see them every time I scan the shelves. A few remain unread but I want to get to them. Others form part of a series I enjoy but haven’t read the whole of. All of them need to earn their place in my permanent capsule collection (as I’ve now decided to call it).
Each one will be picked up and assessed anew. No favouritism will be employed; even books by my most treasured authors will be rejected if they’re a bit duff. There can be no completism when space is at such a premium. To get into my PCC (as the permanent capsule collection is henceforth known) it needs to meet the following criteria:
- Most importantly, I must love it. For whatever reason. Language, plot, connection, whatever. It must be love.
- I must want to read it again. Maybe not tomorrow or next week or even next year. But I must intend to come back to it at some time.
And any book found wanting means a space on the shelf for something new.
How to go about it is another valid question. My fiction shelves are arranged alphabetically by author (I’ve been a bookseller too long to brook any other variation and I don’t go in for subdividing by genre). I’m not going to read them all alphabetically, the Ds would stall my progress for an age with all that glorious chunky Dumas, but I am going to start with the first shelf just to establish a jumping in point. This shelf contains books by HE Bates and Kate Atkinson, Sarah Addison Allen and Jake Arnott. Ned Beauman and Alan Bradley. Most of them I’ve read before. In the case of The Darling Buds of May and Case Histories, many times. There is one tiny HE Bates I haven’t read sitting atop the Larkins: The Triple Echo, which is a ‘famous tale of loneliness and deception’ according to the cover. I bought it at the Croxley Revels last year (the midsummer fair on the Green in the village I grew up in). I love the cover, and it’s only a tiny little thing, barely 90 pages. This is where I’m starting.